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County requires hepatitis A vaccines for some food workers

Food Safety News - Sat, 02/03/2018 - 00:03

Earlier this week the Salt Lake County Board of Health amended “Health Regulation #5: Food Sanitation” to require hepatitis A vaccination for all food workers in an establishment when anyone working in that establishment has been in contact with someone infected with hepatitis A.

The amendment is in response to Salt Lake County’s ongoing hepatitis A outbreak and took effect Feb. 1.

At least 181 people have been sickened in the Salt Lake area.

“Throughout this outbreak, we’ve identified that some people infected with hepatitis A share a household or are otherwise in contact with someone who works at a food service establishment,” said health department executive director Gary Edwards.

“When we’ve learned this, we’ve immediately acted to vaccinate all food workers in that same establishment for the protection of the public. This amendment formalizes and codifies that health department response as it relates to food workers.”

The temporary amendment requires food service establishments to vaccinate all employees who handle food if any worker in the establishment is identified as a contact of someone confirmed to have hepatitis A. Establishments have 14 days to comply with the vaccine requirement. Unvaccinated workers who do not meet the deadline will be excluded from work assignments that involve food handling and food-contact surfaces.

Under the temporary amendment, food establishments are responsible for maintaining official records of their employees’ vaccination status. Each occurrence of an unvaccinated employee handling food or touching any food-contact surfaces will be recorded as a critical violation on the establishment’s inspection history. Repeated violations to comply can result in suspension or revocation of businesses operating permits.

The temporary amendment also authorizes the health department to reduce the cost of the first dose of the hepatitis A vaccine by up to 50 percent for anyone seeking vaccination at a health department immunization clinic who can document that they are a foodservice employee in Salt Lake County.

Temporary amendments may be enacted by the Board of Health without the normal public hearing process in response to an imminent public health concern. Temporary amendments are limited to 120 days, during which the board members may, if they choose, engage in the full public notification and hearing process to permanently amend a regulation. The board has not yet determined if it will be necessary to permanently amend Health Regulation #5.

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Caviar recall update No. 10 by Imperial, VIP for botulism risk

Food Safety News - Sat, 02/03/2018 - 00:01

For the 10th time since late November 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded a recall of Imperial Caviar and Seafood brand and VIP Caviar Club brand whitefish and salmon roe due to the potential presence of the dangerous bacteria, Clostridium botulinum.

The update posted Thursday includes additional product information identified during the CFIA investigation.

Consumers in Canada, particularly New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, should not consume the recalled products described below.

“If you think you got sick from eating a recalled product, call your doctor. Also, check to see if you have recalled products in your home and throw them out or return them to the store where they were purchased,” according to the recall notice.

Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms of botulism poisoning paralyzes muscles, included those necessary for breathing, so anyone who has eaten any of the recalled caviar and developed early signs of symptoms should immediately seek medical attention.

Symptoms can include facial paralysis or loss of facial expression, unreactive or fixed pupils, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, difficulty speaking or slurred speech and a change in sound of voice, including hoarseness.

So far, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products, according to the recall notice.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC VIP Caviar Club Salmon Roe 50 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 13, 2018 1 86866 90024 8 VIP Caviar Club Salmon Roe 100 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 13, 2018 1 86866 90023 1 Imperial Caviar & Seafood Salmon Roe 50 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 13, 2018 1 86866 90024 8 Imperial Caviar & Seafood Salmon Roe 100 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 13, 2018 1 86866 90023 1 Outer package:
Imperial Caviar & Seafood /
Inner package:
VIP Caviar Club
Outer package :
Salmon Roe /
Inner package :
Salmon Roe 50 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 13, 2018 Outer package:
1 86866 00010 8
Inner package:
None Outer package:
Imperial Caviar & Seafood /
Inner package:
VIP Caviar Club
Outer package:
Golden Whitefish Roe /
Inner package:
Whitefish Roe 50 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 15, 2018 Outer package:
1 86866 00012 2 /
Inner package:
None Imperial Caviar & Seafood Whitefish Roe 50 g All Best Before dates
up to and including
December 15, 2018 1 86866 90027 9

 

Imperial Caviar recalls, in reverse date order, since Nov. 25, 2017

 

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Briefly: Poison posies — Prison food — Online reporting

Food Safety News - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 00:01

Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of iwaspoisoned.com.

A rose by another name is not safe to eat
James Wong, a botanist in the United Kingdom, outed a California vegan blogger for decorating food with poisonous flowers.

The culpret is San Francisco-based cookbook author Marie Reginato, who has 74,000 followers. Eating the “decorative” toxic flowers, PaperWhite Narcissus blooms, can lead to itching, swelling, convulsions and vomiting.

Narcissus flowers are part of the daffodil family, all of which contain the toxic plant alkaloid lycorine.

Wong, known for his TV show “How to Grow Your Own Drugs,” tweeted to his 66, 000 followers: “Another day, another ‘clean eating’ Instagramer posting images of toxic flowers on food.”

Reginato has been blogging about a plant-based diet for three years, and her success has resulted in a the cookbook “Alternative Vegan.”

County fighting foodborne illnesses online
El Paso County Public Health is launching an online system to investigate foodborne illnesses that allows people to report symptoms that develop after eating at restaurants or events.

“Most foodborne infections go undiagnosed and unreported either because the ill person does not see a doctor, or the doctor does not make a specific diagnosis,” said Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, El Paso County Public Health’s medical director.

“This new online system allows people to report food-related illness any time – day, night, or on weekends – and help improve public health’s response.”

Questions include what was eaten, where the food came from, what symptoms developed and when, etc. County officials say it takes 5-10 minutes to fill out the form on a computer or mobile device.

According to El Paso County Public Health, 18-percent of last year’s 916 calls received by its Communicable Disease Program were food related. In addition, the program received 148 reports of retail food establishments or food-based events possibly associated with foodborne illness.

Prison food can lead to unintended death sentences
According to research by the American Public Health Association, incarcerated people are six times more likely to contract foodborne illnesses than those who are not in jail or prison. Problems listed in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records include rancid chicken, food infested with maggots, and cake that was nibbled on by rats.

“We analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to describe correctional institution outbreaks from 1998 to 2014 and compare them with other foodborne outbreaks,” according to the research abstract.

The data showed 200 foodborne outbreaks in correctional institutions were reported, resulting in 20,625 illnesses, 204 hospitalizations, and five deaths.

Aramark and Trinity are the two largest food service companies operating in U.S. prisons, and they are the companies blamed for maggots in food and “crunchy dirt” in potatoes, as reported by the Detroit Free Press.

Aramark, which serves many stadiums where professional sports teams play, has been in hot water with more than one municipal health department in recent years for dangerous violations that could cause foodborne illnesses.

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Nearly half of NYC schools had critical food violations in 2017

Food Safety News - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 00:01

Nearly half of public school cafeterias in New York City racked up at least one dangerous health code violation this past year, including evidence of rats and mice, roaches and flies.

An analysis of city Health Department data conducted by student journalists at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism found 1,150 critical violations that could lead to foodborne illnesses at nearly 695 school cafeterias, according to media reports.

That’s almost half of 1,407 cafeterias inspected by health officials in 2017. Of those, 617 critical violations showed evidence of vermin in school kitchens and dining rooms.

Second-year CUNY journalism school student Pauliina Siniauer, who produced the report with other students for CUNY’s NYCityNews Service, said the findings should raise red flags for families.

“It’s a health risk. Critical violations can get kids sick,” said Siniauer, who based her report on data she obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request. “We found that kids were vomiting and … getting sick from the food.”

One of the worst was Middle School 137 in Ozone Park, Queens, where an inspector found about 1,500 flies in the cafeteria on July 12, the New York Daily News reported.

Four days and two additional inspections passed before school staffers cleaned up the infestation, according to the report.

Parents were disgusted when a reporter informed them of the mess. But they weren’t surprised because their kids had told them of the filthy conditions.

Solomon Ramdas said his 14-year-old son used to share horror stories about flies and roaches in the cafeteria when he went there last year. Now he’s hearing similar stories from his 11-year-old daughter who goes to Middle School 137.

“The system has to change,” Ramdas told the Daily News. “I have heard stories about roaches in the cafeteria. My daughter doesn’t eat here. The kids always get sick.”

At Public School 770 in Brooklyn, parents said they hadn’t been informed of an inspection last spring that found roaches and mice droppings in the cafeteria and kitchen

Photo illustration

“Children can get disease from being around that,” said Michelle Machado, 38, who has two kids who go there. “This is the first time I’m hearing this. Would the school be honest and tell me about this? I don’t think so.”

The CUNY analysis published Wednesday comes on the heels of a number of negative reports about food being served in city schools, including green pizza that was yanked from menus in 2016.

In September, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced free lunches in all city schools for any student who wants them.

The “Free Lunch for All” program is paid for through a federal program and provides free lunches in the nation’s highest-poverty schools. The NYCity News Service report revealed that four dozen school cafeterias with the worst violation records were serving the city’s poorest students.

City officials have not followed through on plans to hire 2,000 more cafeteria workers since launching the universal lunch program, Shaun D. Francois, the head of the labor union representing cafeteria workers, told NYCity News Service.

While many schools were cited with violations, City Education Department spokesman Michael Aciman noted that roughly 98 percent of them ultimately passed their health inspections in 2017, which he said is the rough equivalent of a B or better if the school cafeteria were a restaurant rated by the city.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of students and staff,” Aciman said. “We work closely with the Department of Health to immediately investigate and address any violation.”

The report highlighted some troublesome findings, including at one Brooklyn school food operation where live roaches and nearly 600 fresh mice droppings were discovered by a health inspector.

At another, five second-graders got sick after eating cafeteria lunches. A health inspector who visited the school days later found dirty equipment and poor conditions regarding how food was laid out, the report said.

The school lunch program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agency’s regulations require local health officials to inspect school cafeterias twice every school year. About 1,400 city school cafeterias were inspected at least once. Some of those cafeterias serve more than one school, the report said.

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CEO says firm may have sold contaminated baby milk for years

Food Safety News - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 00:00

Lactalis, one of the world’s largest dairy groups, may have been producing Salmonella-conaminated baby milk for more than a decade, its CEO was quoted as saying this week.

The French company has recalled 12 million cans of milk in France and several other countries since babies got sick last year after drinking milk produced at a Lactalis factory in Craon in western France.

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, particularly for young children.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Lactalis CEO Emmanuel Besnier said the growing food safety crisis will likely cost the company hundreds of millions of euros.

The same strain of Salmonella was responsible for some infections in 2005, Besnier told French newspaper Les Echos, adding it was possible the factory was the source for those cases, and others since.

In 2005, the factory in Craon was owned by Celia, a company taken over by Lactalis in 2006.

“It cannot be excluded that babies have consumed contaminated milk over this period,” Besnier said.

The Institut Pasteur, which monitors micro-organisms and diseases, said more than 200 babies in France had been infected with Salmonella Agona since 2005, including 38 between mid-August and December 2016. There were 25 confirmed illnesses between 2006 and 2017 and 141 in 2005, Reuters reported.

French health authorities have said 36 of the 38 cases in 2016 were clearly linked to Lactalis milk, as was one in Spain and a suspected one in Greece. A group representing victims’ families says there were at least 10 more cases.

The privately owned company exports its products to dozens of countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. It also sells in the United States, but none of the recalled baby milk has been traced to U.S. distributors so far.

Last month, French authorities searched five Lactilis sites, including the Craon plant. Besnier said a facility at that plant has been closed and will stay that way.

After talks with Lactalis management, French authorities said last month the company would recall all infant formula milk products made at the Craon factory that were still in warehouses and on store shelves, regardless of the date of manufacture.

The company has said the recall affected more than 12 million products in 83 countries.

French fraud and health authorities have launched a criminal investigation into how the massive recall was handled. Some retailers were still selling the products days after they were recalled.

This week, Besnier questioned the effectiveness of 16,000 tests performed by an unidentified private laboratory last year, saying they revealed nothing.

“If the analysis of end-products had revealed the presence of Salmonella Agona, we would of course not have marketed the products and we would have avoided the crisis,” Lactalis said in a statement referring to the tests.

The victims’ association reacted to Besnier’s comments with dismay.

“These are several hundred million boxes concerned and several hundred thousand tonnes of products sent to more than 80 countries. This is a health scandal of unprecedented scale,” it said in a statement. “This implies that the victims could have been much more numerous.”

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Whip City Jerky, LLC Recalls Beef Jerky Products Due to Misbranding and an Undeclared Allergen

USDA Food Recall - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 22:00
Whip City Jerky, LLC, a Westfield, Mass. establishment, is recalling approximately 1,391 pounds of beef jerky products due to misbranding and an undeclared allergen.

CDC director resigns after reports of conflicts of interest

Food Safety News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:01

CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned Wednesday following reports that she bought shares in a tobacco company, among other financial dealings that presented a conflict of interest.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a news release. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

Fitzgerald, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was appointed to run the CDC in July.

On Tuesday, Politico reported on documents that showed several investments, including one in a tobacco company, that Fitzgerald made after she took over the agency’s top job, National Public Radio reported on Wednesday. The CDC is a lead federal agency in preventing smoking and tobacco-related diseases. It is also the federal agency responsible for tracking and investigating foodborne illnesses.

Fitzgerald had come under fire on Capitol Hill for not divesting financial interests in other companies that present potential conflicts of interest, including drug maker Merck, health insurer Humana, and U.S. Food Holding Co.

The Politico report, relying on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, said that one day after Fitzgerald bought stock in Japan Tobacco, she toured the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory, which studies tobacco’s toxic effects, NPR reported. She sold the tobacco shares on Oct. 26, and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, well into her term as CDC director.

Fitzgerald previously served as commissioner of the Georgia Division of Public Health.

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Beach Beat: FDA picks up scientist who is food safety champion

Food Safety News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:01

To quote Willy Wonka: “So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Lots of people have been bagging on lots of governmental entities for my whole life. Whether they want bigger or smaller government, they all have a lot to say about what’s bad in Washington, D.C. Few of those people mention what’s good.

Granted, staffing cuts in mainstream media newsrooms mean many of those people don’t have a chance to see some of the brighter bits of starlight that pierce the cosmic cloud of the federal galaxy.

One such shining moment came yesterday, when those of us in so-called niche media saw the announcement that scientist, educator and food safety warrior Jim Gorny is leaving his post as vice president for food safety and technology at the Produce Marketing Association to return to government service.

No matter what you think about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — during the current administration or previous ones — rest assured that Gorny’s new job as senior science adviser for produce safety at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is good news for anyone who eats fresh produce in the United States.

I got to know Gorny during my time as a reporter for The Packer newspaper, which covers the fresh produce industry in North America. For my first couple of years at The Packer, Gorny worked for FDA as senior adviser for produce safety at Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

His presentations and participation in panel discussions at produce industry events were amazing. Gorny’s got chops, as those of us with band experience would say. Few people can clearly communicate complex scientific information to non-eggheads. The beauty of Gorny’s style is that he can speak to researchers as well as real people in a conference hall without anyone feeling like the material is over –or under — their heads.

No doubt part of the foundation for his communication skills is his education. He has multiple degrees in food science and a doctorate in plant biology, which I know means nothing to some people. But he’s also got experience as a researcher/educator and food producer.

During his career, Gorny has been executive director of the Post-Harvest Technology Research and Information Center at the University of California-Davis, senior vice president of food safety and technology for United Fresh Produce Association and the International Fresh-cut Produce Association. He also worked in industry at Pillsbury Green Giant and as general manager of a fresh-cut produce processing plant.

Then there are his four years at FDA, where he became intimately familiar with how food safety efforts work at the federal level. He knows the provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was developed and signed into law while he was with the FDA the first time. That first-hand experience with the FSMA regulations that are beginning to be enforced in the produce industry this year is no doubt part of the reason FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hired Gorny back into civil service.

“… we will now have a high-level agency focal point for produce safety located in our Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition,” Gottlieb said Wednesday while addressing the National Association of State Agriculture Departments. “He’s someone many of you know — Jim Gorny.

“Jim not only has previous FDA experience but has also worked for the Produce Marketing Association and is well known to the produce industry. He knows FSMA very well, what it’s designed to accomplish in enhancing food safety, and the challenges associated with implementation of a rule as complex as the produce safety rule.”

Dr. Bob — aka Bob Whitaker, Ph.D. — put an even finer point on why Gorny is a good hire for the CFSAN job at FDA. Whitaker, who shares Gorny’s ability to turn scientific lingo into plain language, hired Gorny into the Produce Marketing Association nearly five years ago.

“If ever there was a right person for a job, Jim is it,” Whitaker said in a news release from the Produce Marketing Association. “Jim and I share the belief that food safety isn’t something you add to your business; it is the entire way you do business. I know that is a point of view Jim will carry with him to the FDA. It has served our members well, and now it will serve our country well.”

Our government has given us reason to rejoice, despite what pundits, profilers and personal acquaintances might say. Jim Gorny’s return to civil service is a good deed, both by him and the government that recognized his expertise and put science first.

So, yes, I’m still a nerd whose heroes are more often than not even more nerdy than I am. I’m still an optimist at heart, after decades as a hard newswoman.

And, I still have a crush on the late, great Gene Wilder, whose delivery of that one line in his portrayal of Willy Wonka has stayed with me since I first heard it, with tears running down my cheeks, in 1971.

Cheese maker did not test raw milk for E. coli ; 1 died, 25 fell ill

Food Safety News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:00

The owner of Scotland’s Errington Cheese Ltd. told a court this week that her business did not test its products for a harmful strain of E.coli that claimed the life of a 3-year-old child during a 2016 outbreak.

Selina Cairns said her firm did not carry out spot checks on the raw milk used in its cheeses to detect E.coli 0157. The company was linked to the 2016 outbreak that also sickened 25 other people, but the Crown Office declined to pursue criminal proceedings because of a lack of evidence linking the firm to the death of the girl from Dunbartonshire.

No traces of E.coli 0157 were found in cheeses made by Errington, but other types of the bacteria were, which led food safety agencies to name the firm’s as the source of the outbreak.

The company makes a range of products from unpasteurized milk on its farm in Carnwath, Lanarkshire. Environmental workers seized batches of its Lanark Blue and Corra Linn cheeses as a result of the 2016 outbreak.

Now, the firm is locked in a battle with South Lanarkshire Council, which is attempting to have cheese produced by the manufacturer declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed. At a civil hearing at Hamilton Sheriff Court, Cairns said there was conflicting guidance about the need to test for the bug, and that she had been advised it was not necessary, according to a report in The Scotsman newspaper.

“South Lanarkshire Council and Food Standards Scotland said I should have been testing for it and I am obviously testing for it now,” The Scotsman quoted her as saying. “I accept in hindsight it might have been sensible to have tested for it every six months, but I’m not really quite sure how that would have helped.

“In retrospect it’s quite easy to look at things differently. I know a lot of cheese makers in the UK and none of them were testing for E.coli 0157 before the summer of 2016.”

Cairns also said that since the outbreak, the company began including warnings on its raw milk cheeses labels to say they are not safe for children, pregnant women and elderly people.

Workers at Errington Cheese Ltd. work the excess moisture out of cheese curd.

However, she said, she had no control over who ate the cheeses after they were sold to retailers.

“I can’t control what people do with it after the point it leaves me. In most delicatessens, customers speak to the person behind the counter.”

The hearing before Sheriff Robert Weir continues.

Two days before Christmas, the company recalled all batches, all sizes and all date codes of its Dunsyre Blue cheese because the product contained Listeria monocytogenes, Food Safety News reported.

The recall notice put Errington’s Dunsyre Blue back in the news just two months after the Crown decided not to prosecute the company for the product.

On Dec. 12, Errington recalled a single batch (J9) because “routine customer testing” found Listeria monocytogenes in a pasteurized sample. And on Dec. 23, the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom and Food Standards Scotland announced that because further testing by Errington found Listeria in other batches, it was all recalled.

Listeria causes symptoms that are much like the flu, including high temperatures, muscle aches, chills and diarrhea. Rare cases of the infection can cause more severe complications, including meningitis. Elderly people, pregnant women and unborn babies, infants and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

Since the Health Protection Scotland report that linked Errington to the E. coli outbreak, it has produced Dunsyre Blue with pasteurized milk on new equipment and has said it spent more than $1 million to restore its name.

Food Standards Scotland’s management of the investigation was criticized for its handling of the probe. Errington is described by some as a pioneer in artisanal cheese-making in Scotland.

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Friends don’t make friends sick on Super Bowl Sunday

Food Safety News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:00

I come from a long line of, “Oh, just leave that leftover chicken – or pheasant, or scrambled eggs, or fried potatoes – on the counter. Someone will eat it later.”

And there they’d sit – on a small saucer on the toaster – and people would nibble at them all afternoon and into the evening.

While my mom used to scrub the Thanksgiving turkey with a brush and Palmolive dish soap – seriously – before she put it in the oven at midnight to cook ever so slowly and provide a beautiful breeding ground for bacteria, I kind of give my turkey a quick rinse under the faucet and plop it into the roaster.

Wash produce? Never have.

Pay attention to expiration dates? I’m the daughter of Depression-era Germans. I don’t like to throw things out. My older son once cleaned out my canned foods cupboard and made an artistic display of everything that had expired before he was born. He was a teenager at the time.

But since starting work for Food  Safety News a few weeks ago, I actually washed the romaine lettuce I bought recently. I put those scrambled eggs into the refrigerator sooner than I used to. I’ll try to pay more heed to “use by” dates. (But really, what if there’s a zombie apocalypse and there’s no food in my cupboards? Kidding … sort of.)

Keep it safe on Super Bowl Sunday. Photo illustration

And I’ll very likely pay more attention to the buffet of cornbread, Rice Krispies treats, cinnamon rolls, spinach dip, salsa, etc., that sits out all day long at the chili contest I enter – and lose – each year on Super Bowl Sunday. At least the chili entries are kept warm in Crock Pots as the day goes on, and on, and on, until winners are announced at halftime.

By all rights, given what I’ve learned in recent weeks, I should have been sick many times – or dead – and so should my family. I guess we’re lucky, but I will pay closer attention.

Speaking of the chili contest, I rarely cook without cutting myself, so I’ll probably start keeping some finger cots on hand.

Meanwhile, here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control for a food-poisoning-free Super Bowl LII. By the way, the CDC says Americans eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year except Thanksgiving. It doesn’t mention alcohol consumption, or emergency room visits, but here goes.

Keep it clean

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating or handling food. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets and pet food.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.
  • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water– even if you do not plan to eat the peel – so there’s less of a chance of dirt and germs transferring from the surface to the inside when you cut them.

Cook it well

  • Use a food thermometer to test meat and microwaved dishes on your menu to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Make sure chicken wings and any other poultry reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F and that any ground beef items reach 160 degrees F.
    • Follow frozen food package cooking directions when cooking in a microwave.

Avoid the danger zone

  • If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling.
  • Keep hot foods at 140 degrees F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table.
  • Keep cold foods,  like salsa and guacamole, at 40 degrees F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice.
  • Make sure to keep takeout or delivery foods hot, and cold foods cold. Divide large pots of food, such as soups or stews, and large cuts of meat, such as roasts or whole poultry, into small quantities for refrigeration to allow them to cool quickly and minimize their time in the temperature “danger zone” between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

Watch the clock

  • Follow recommended microwave cooking and standing times.
    • “Cold spots” — areas that are not completely cooked — can harbor bacteria, viruses and parasites.
    • Always follow directions for “standing time”— the extra minutes food should rest to finish cooking.
  • Track the time food stays on the buffet.
    • Throw away any perishable foods that have been at room temperature for two hours or more.

Avoid mix-ups

  • Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving and storing food.
    • Make sure to use separate cutting boards, plates and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
  • Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating dips and salsa directly from bowls.

Store and reheat leftovers the right way

  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze.
  • Leftover foods should be refrigerated at 40 degrees F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. It’s OK to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for three to four days at most. Freeze leftovers if you won’t be eating them sooner.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees F before serving. This includes leftovers warmed up in the microwave.

Catharine Huddle

About the author: Catharine Huddle is a long-time Lincoln, NE, journalist. She started her career at the Lincoln Journal in 1978, moving from the “death and weather girl” position to a reporter for the city desk to covering the state’s prison system. She was eventually promoted to weekend editor/assistant city editor for the newspaper, which is now known as the Journal Star. Click on her photo for additional details.

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Canadian inspectors find Listeria; Sawler recalls turnip sticks

Food Safety News - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 00:00

Sawler Gardens Ltd. is recalling its turnip sticks because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The Canadian company shipped the Sawler brand turnip sticks to distributors in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and possibly nationwide according to the recall notice.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found Listeria contamination during routine testing. Although there had not been any reported illnesses in association with the recalled product as of Wednesday, there is concern consumers may have unused portions of it in their homes.

Consumers can identify the recalled turnip sticks by looking for the following label information:

  • “Sawler Turnip Sticks” in 340-gram plastic bags;
  • “18 FE 18” date code; and
  • UPC number 6 21063 36600 3.

Anyone who has eaten any of the Sawler brand Turnip Sticks and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

It can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms of Listeria infection to develop. Consequently, people who have eaten the recalled Turnip Sticks should monitor themselves for listeriosis symptoms during the coming weeks.

Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. In severe cases the infection becomes invasive and spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract.

Older adults, young children and people with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients, people with HIV/AIDS and organ transplant recipients are susceptible to serious, sometimes fatal, infections. In addition, in pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. The pathogen can cross the placenta and infect developing fetuses.

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Iowa lawmakers look at raw milk again; previous efforts failed

Food Safety News - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 01:07

A subcommittee of three state legislators in Iowa voted 2-1 Tuesday to advance a bill that would allow dairy operators in the state to sell unpasteurized milk direct to consumers.

Similar bills have not survived in the Iowa Legislature in recent years. This year the effort in the Iowa House was assigned to a subcommittee of the Local Government Committee.

The subcommittee vote Tuesday was along party lines, with Republicans Greg Heartsill, the sponsor, and Bobby Kaufmann in favor of it. Democrat Art Staed voted against advancing the measure.

Supporters say it’s a matter of food freedom. They want to determine for themselves and their children whether they drink milk that has been pasteurized to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites. They contend so-called raw milk is more nutritious and safe.

Opponents — which include health care professionals and public health departments from local, state and federal levels — say it’s too dangerous, especially for children because their immune systems are not fully developed. Immature immune systems and suppressed immune systems, such as those in elderly people, cancer patients and others, cannot successfully fight the E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and other bacteria that is often present in unpasteurized milk, health officials advise.

The debate is being played out in legislative bodies across the country. Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk, but sales within a state are up to state lawmakers.

Most states prohibit all sales of unpasteurized, raw milk. Some allow farm-to-consumer sales, which is the route the Iowa bill sponsored by Republican Greg Heartsill is taking.

A few states allow herd-share sales. In those situations, consumers must buy a “share” in a dairy herd and in return for regular payments can receive raw milk. A small minority of states allow retail sales of raw milk, which makes it available in grocery stores and other locations.

The Iowa bill, HF2055, would require special warning labels on raw milk containers that dairies sell direct to consumers. The bill provides specific language for the labels and other requirements.

“The label shall be permanently affixed to the container,” according to the bill. “The words on the label shall be printed using upper case letters in at least twelve point boldface type. If the container includes a main informational or advertising panel, the label shall be part of the panel.”

The label shall state the following, according to the current bill language:

Notice to Consumers

This container holds raw milk not subject to state inspection or other public health regulations that require pasteurization and grading.”

As of Tuesday night, the bill had not been further scheduled for consideration in the House.

Some lawmakers want it moved out of the Local Government Committee and assigned, instead, to the Agriculture Committee for the next phase. If enacted, the Iowa Department of Agriculture would have the responsibility for enforcing the new law.

As defined in the current version of the bill, violations would be misdemeanors, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $65 to $650.

Canada expands sesame seed recall to include more products

Food Safety News - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 00:01

A Canadian recall of sesame seeds due to potential Salmonella contamination has expanded to include more products and additional distribution information since the initial industry-attributed recall notice reported on Jan. 26.

Bhugga, above and below, is a punjabi dessert and is among the recalled products made with sesame seeds that may be contaminated with Salmonella. Photo courtesy CFIA

As of Tuesday, the following products had been recalled:

  • ARZ Fine Foods Sesame Seeds White, 1 lb. Packed on 18.JA.09; Sold at ARZ Fine Foods, 1909 Lawrence Avenue E., Toronto, Ontario;
  • Bulk Sesame Seeds, variable weight. All packages sold up to and including January 23, 2018 at Bulk Food Stop Inc., 2900 Warden Avenue, Scarborough, Ontario;
  • IHF Sesame seeds, white, 200g and 400g. Product codes 2-1217 and 4-1217, respectively; Sold at Iqbal Halal Foods, 2 Thorncliffe Pk. Dr., Toronto, Ontario;
  • HelloFRESH Sesame Seeds, included in Toasted Brown Rice Bowl, 9g. and included in meal kits delivered Jan. 9 and 10 to customers in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan;
  • Bhugga, a dessert made with sesame seeds, 50g pieces. All units sold from Jan. 4 through 24 at three Rajdhani Sweets & Restaurants locations in Brampton and Etobicoke, Ontario;
  • Naturally Good Hulled Sesame Seeds. Lot No. 1708-01, produced 08/2017, distributed by North American Impex to Hotel/Restaurant/Institutional customers in Albert, New Brunswick and Ontario;
  • David Roberts Food Corporation Sesame Seeds Raw, 2 x 1.5 kg. Lots #7514, 7523, 7524, 7525, 8013, 8015, 8023, 8024; distributed by David Roberts Food Corporation to Hotel/Restaurant/Institutional customers nationwide; and
  • Dawn Food Products Ltd. Raw Sesame Seeds, 5 kg. Lots #8014, 8024, 8032; packaged by David Roberts Food Corporation and distributed to Hotel/Restaurant/Institutional customers nationwide.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may result in additional product recalls.

No illnesses have been associated with the consumption of the recalled products to date.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection usually include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, beginning from 12 to 72 hours following exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In most cases, symptoms last for four to seven days, and most victims recover without treatment. However young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems may be prone to more serious illness, including severe diarrhea, which can result in severe dehydration.

Consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products should either discard the items or return them to the place of purchase.

Links to specific recalls:

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IAFP opens nominations for annual awards in food safety

Food Safety News - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 00:00

The International Association for Food Protection is now accepting nominations for awards to be presented at the 2018 annual conference in Salt Lake City.

You do not need to be an IAFP member in order to nominate a colleague or professional for one of the awards. Further application instructions and criteria can be found by clicking on any of the following awards.

  • The International Association for Food Protection annually presents the Black Pearl Award to a company in recognition of its food safety efforts.

    Black Pearl Award
    Award Showcasing the Black Pearl. Presented in recognition of a company’s outstanding achievement in corporate excellence in food safety and quality.

  • Fellows Award
    Presented to Member(s) who have contributed to IAFP and its Affiliates with distinction over an extended period of time.
  • President’s Lifetime Achievement Award
    Given at the discretion of the IAFP President to recognize an individual who has made a lasting impact on “Advancing Food Safety Worldwide” through a lifetime of professional achievement in food protection.
  • Honorary Life Membership Award
    The Honorary Life Membership Award recognizes IAFP members for their dedication to the high ideals and objectives of the International Association for Food Protection and for dedicated service to the Association.
  • Food Safety Innovation Award
    $2,500 honorarium. Presented to an individual or organization for creating a new idea, practice, or product that has had a positive impact on food safety, thus, improving public health, and the quality of life.
  • International Leadership Award
    $2,000 honorarium and reimbursement to attend IAFP 2018. Presented to an individual for dedication to the high ideals and objectives of IAFP and for promotion of the mission of the Association in countries outside of the United States and Canada.
  • Ivan Parkin Lecturer
    The Ivan Parkin Lecture was established by the International Association for Food Protection in 1986 to honor individuals who have had a significant impact on the field of food safety. Each year a prominent food safety leader is selected to deliver the Ivan Parkin Lecture at the Opening Session of IAFP’s Annual Meeting. The association established the lecture to honor Ivan Parkin, a dairy Extension Specialist at Pennsylvania State University. Parkin was IAFP president in 1955 and he remained active in the association for many years.
  • John H. Silliker Lecturer
    The John H. Silliker Lecture was established by Silliker Inc. (now Merieux NutriSciences) in 2004 to recognize the achievements of Silliker through the practical application of scientific principles to improve food protection. The John H. Silliker Lecture provides an avenue for recognized experts to present important and timely information on topics of significance to food protection at the IAFP Annual Meeting. Silliker established Silliker Laboratories in 1967 and grew the network of laboratories to more than 70 locations in 18 countries.  He was an early proponent of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system; developed the revolutionary concept of using sponges to collect environmental samples in food plants; and testified at congressional hearings that resulted in the passage of landmark food safety legislation.
  • GMA Food Safety Award
    $2,000 honorarium. This Award alternates between individuals and groups or organizations. In 2018, the award will be presented to an individual for highly significant food safety development or in recognition of a long history of outstanding contributions to food safety.
  • Food Safety Magazine Distinguished Service
    The Food Safety Magazine Distinguished Service Award honors individuals who best exemplify the characteristics of the dedicated food safety professional. Those honored are recognized by members of the profession for their collective works in promoting or advancing science-based solutions for food safety issues.
  • Maurice Weber Laboratorian Award
    $2,000 honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding contributions in the laboratory, recognizing a commitment to the development of innovative and practical analytical approaches in support of food safety.
  • Sanitarian Award
    $1,500 honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the profession of the Sanitarian.
  • Elmer Marth Educator Award
    $1,500 honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the arena of education in food safety and food protection.

 

  • Peanut Proud Student Scholarship Award
    The Peanut Proud Student Scholarship Award Provides a $2,000 academic scholarship and travel funding for a U.S. graduate student in the field of food microbiology – and specifically in the area of and peanut butter food safety – to attend the Annual Meeting.  Peanut Proud is a nonprofit industry organization based in Georgia.
  • J.Mac Geopfert Developing Scientists Awards
    Presented to students (enrolled or recent graduates) in the field of food safety research at accredited universities or colleges. Qualified individuals may enter either the technical or poster competition.
  • President’s Recognition Awards
    This award is given at the discretion of the IAFP President to recognize an individual(s) for special effort, project, and contribution of time or expertise that resulted in the betterment of IAFP.
  • C. B. Shogren Memorial Award
    $500 honorarium. Presented to the affiliate demonstrating exceptional overall achievement in promoting the mission of the International Association for Food Protection, which is “to provide food safety professionals worldwide with a forum to exchange information on protecting the food supply”.
  • Samuel J. Crumbine Award
    From 1955 to 1966 two awards were given: the first for general environmental health, the second for food protection. From 1968 to 1973, the award was suspended due to a general lack of innovation in food protection programs during that period. Application deadline for this award is March 15. For more information and to apply, go to: www.crumbineaward.com.
  • John N. Sofos Most-cited JFP Research and Review Publication Awards
    These awards were established to recognize top researchers and high-quality research publications and reviews that contribute to the impact of JFP and the field of food safety. The awards are based upon the number of citations of a work by others for papers published five years prior. They are presented by the JFP Scientific Co-Editors at the Editorial Board Reception held each year at the IAFP Annual Meeting.
  • JFP Most-downloaded Publication Award
    This award recognizes the most-downloaded Journal of Food Protection publication based on data from the JFP website. The award is presented by the JFP Scientific Co-Editors at the Editorial Board Reception held each year at the IAFP Annual Meeting.
  • FPT Peer-Reviewed Research Most-downloaded Publication Award
    This award has been established to recognize notable research publications and reviews that contribute to the impact of FPT and the field of food protection.  The award is based upon the number of downloads for an FPT publication in the previous two years. The award is presented at the Editorial Board Reception.
  • FPT Peer-Reviewed Research Most-viewed Publication Award
    This award has been established to recognize notable research publications and reviews that contribute to the impact of FPT and the field of food protection.  The award is based upon the number of views for an FPT publication in a given year. The award is presented at the Editorial Board Reception.

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Canada recalls more frozen coconut linked to U.S. outbreak

Food Safety News - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 00:21

A third recall is underway in Canada for the same brand of frozen, shredded coconut that U.S. officials say is linked to a multistate Salmonella outbreak that has sickened people on both sides of the border.

Posted Monday, the third recall notice from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency named Coconut Tree brand frozen coconut. It has the same lot number as the Coconut Tree brand coconut in the second recall, but it has different date codes. Both the second and third recalls indicate Thai Indochine Trading Inc. is the recalling firm.

The first Canadian recall of the Coconut Tree branded product, on Jan. 24, also included Green Field and Captain’s Choice brands. It did not specify an importer or distributor, merely stating “industry” had initiated the recalls.

Canadian public health officials are not yet on record regarding the coconut’s link to the outbreak reported by U.S. officials. All three of the Canadian recall notices state: “There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.”

On Jan. 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sick person in Canada was infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella as some of the U.S. 25 outbreak victims. There are two outbreak strains, according to the CDC — Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- and Salmonella Newport.

In Canada, the coconut is known to have been distributed to retailers across most of the country.

Coconut Tree brand frozen, shredded coconut was recalled in the United States on Jan. 3 because of Salmonella contamination.

In the United States, the recalling firm, Evershing International Trading Co., distributed the Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut in Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, California and Oklahoma. The recall notice on the FDA website reported there was redistribution to Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida and Texas, but it did not indicate if it was sent to retailers or restaurants in other states.

“This frozen shredded coconut product is packaged in 16-ounce plastic bags,” according to the U.S. recall notice.

“This is a complete recall of ALL (emphasis in original) Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut currently on the market.”

Public health officials in the U.S. are concerned that consumers may still have unused portions of the recalled frozen coconut in their homes because of its long shelf life. Although the recall notice posted with the FDA did not specify dates, the second and third recall notices in Canada listed date codes more than a year away — July and August 2019.

Advice to consumers
Officials in both countries say the recalled coconut should not be eaten.

“Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased,” according to the Canadian recalls.

“Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may contract serious and sometimes deadly infections.”

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled coconut and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

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2018 Food Safety Summit designed to connect the dots

Food Safety News - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 00:01

Food producers, distributors, sellers, researchers, regulators and consumers are connected in ways that do not easily translate from one point to another on the food safety landscape, but organizers of the 2018 Food Safety Summit say it’s about time for things to stop getting lost in translation.

“This year the Food Safety Summit has organized a show that focuses on addressing food safety throughout the supply chain by hosting a program that emphasizes how each community that makes up the ecosystem is connected,” according to a statement from Scott Wolters, director of tradeshows and conferences for BNP Media, producers of the show.

“It is vital to understand not only the specific roles and responsibilities that make up the industry but also those in the rest of the process.”

Toward that end, the 20th annual event will offer educational sessions, research presentations, the popular interactive town hall session, a trade show and more May 7-10 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL

Professionals from every part of the food safety supply chain will have a chance to take advantage of seven certification courses and two dozen education sessions Registration is open now at www.foodsafetysummit.com. Early bird registration discounts are effective through March 31. Group discounts are also available.

Highlights of this year’s program

Certification and training courses: Courses will be available for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Seafood HACCP, Preventive Controls for Animal Food, Foreign Supplier Verification, Preventive Controls for Human Foods, Auditor Training and the Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety course offered by NEHA.

Focus on the supply chain: On May 8, the opening session will focus on “Food Safety Case Studies Impact on the Supply Chain and Lessons Learned,” followed by afternoon sessions on departmental cooperation, the future of traceability, effective management and the global regulatory system all in relation to the supply chain.

Education program: Developed by the Summit’s Education Advisory Board, this year’s program will offer 26 sessions covering important topics including traceability, regulations, FSMA, foodborne outbreaks, big data, food fraud prevention, microbial interventions, co-packers, cold chain and more.

New community cafes: Four community cafes on the exhibit hall floor will offer answers to questions and conversations with experts and peers. Food supply chain areas to be represented are manufacturer/processor/supplier; distributor; retailer/food service; and regulatory.

Carletta Ooton

Keynote: In “Amazon’s Approach to Innovation and What It Means for Food Safety,” Carletta Ooton, vice president of Health and Safety, Sustainability, Security and Compliance, will discuss the company’s unique business model and how Amazon is envisioning food safety through big data and technology and revolutionizing the future. The keynote is set for 9:15-10:30 a.m. on May 9.

Networking: Attendees and exhibitors will kick off the summit with a reception on the exhibit hall floor on May 8, 5:30-7 p.m., celebrating the Food Safety Summit’s 20th anniversary.

Town hall: Attendees will be able to talk with leaders from the four most influential regulatory and advisory bodies for food safety: Carmen Rottenberg, acting deputy under secretary at USDA’s Office of Food Safety; Steve Mandernach, past president of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) and bureau chief for food and consumer safety with the Iowa Department Inspections and Appeals; Robert Tauxe, director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases with the Centers for Disease Control; and Stephen Ostroff, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine with the FDA.

Exhibit Hall: More than 200 solution providers will include Gold Sponsor Alchemy, Silver Sponsor Eurofins and Bronze Sponsor Sani Professional. Exhibitors will be provide hands-on demonstrations of products and technologies and conversations with knowledgeable staff. For additional information about exhibiting at the summit or speaking in the Solution Stage Theater contact Chuck Wilson at wilsoncm@bnpmedia.com.

For complete information about this year’s summit, go to www.foodsafetysummit.com.

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FDA warning letters: Foreign, U.S. seafood companies on list

Food Safety News - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 00:00

Seafood companies in Alabama and Indonesia are on warning from the Food and Drug Administration for serious violations of U.S. law, specifically the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation.

Such violations generally result in companies’ food being determined to be adulterated and therefore possibly injurious to health. The FDA allows companies 15 working days to respond to warning letters.

Companies that do not respond within the 15-day period, or those who fail to adequately respond, are subject to other enforcement efforts, including food recalls, seizure of products, forced closure or other activities.

There is frequently a lag time of days to weeks before FDA makes warning letters available to the public on its website. The agency posted the following letters on its website in recent days.

Timothy Neilsen Seafood, Coden, AL
In a Dec. 19 warning letter to Timothy O. Neilsen, owner of Timothy Neilsen Seafood in Coden, AL, the FDA described violations inspectors found on nov. 2, 3, 6 and 7, 2017, slated to ready-to-eat crab eat.

“In accordance with 21 CFR 123.6(g), failure of a processor of fish or fishery products to have and implement a HACCP plan that complies with this section or otherwise operate in accordance with the requirements of Part 123, renders the fish or fishery products adulterated,” according to the warning letter.

“Accordingly, your refrigerated, ready-to-eat crab meat is adulterated, in that is has been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health.”

The Alabama seafood company failed to conduct, or have conducted, hazard analysis for each type of fish or fishery product it produces. Without that analysis, FDA warned, a company cannot “determine whether there are food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur…”

“However, your firm does not have a HACCP plan for refrigerated, ready-to-eat crab meat to control the food safety hazards of environmental chemical contaminants, pathogenic bacterial growth due to temperature abuse, pathogenic bacterial survival through cooking or pasteurizing, allergens, and metal inclusion,” according to FDA’s warning letter.

The federal agency cited other problems at the Timothy Neilsen Seafood company in the letter. The company’s records do not contain documentation of sanitation controls, including hand washing, hand sanitizing, and toilet facilities; protection of food, food packaging material, and food contact surfaces from adulteration with lubricants, fuel, pesticides, cleaning compounds, sanitizing agents, condensate, and other chemical, physical, and biological contaminants; proper labeling, storage, and use of toxic compounds; and control of employee health conditions that could result in the microbiological contamination of food, food packaging materials, and food contact surfaces.

PT. Galaxy Nusa Dua, Jawa Barat, Indonesia
In a Dec. 29 warning letter to director Abdul Rahman at the PT. Galaxy Nusa Dua JL, seafood company in Indonesia, the FDA described “significant deviations” found during an Oct. 12-15, 2017 inspection at an importer’s facility in California.

Inspectors discovered that Gourmet Fusion Foods Inc., located in Culver City, CA, was importing fish from the Indonesian company, but that the foreign company’s HACCP plan for frozen, vacuum-packed tuna was not in compliance with U.S. law. The FDA warning detailed a number of specific problems with the plan:

The firm’s HACCP plan for frozen tuna does not list the critical control point or multiple critical control points for unrefrigerated processing to control scombrotoxin (histamine) formation. FDA recommends the firm include a critical control point or individual critical control points to monitor the cumulative time and temperature of exposure from when the first fish in the lot is received until the last finished fish from the lot is placed in the freezer. Because the frozen tuna product is consumed as sushi and is considered a raw, ready-to-eat (RTE) product, the company should also identify the food safety hazard of pathogen growth as a reasonably likely hazard.

The company’s HACCP plan incorrectly lists critical control points for temperature that are not adequate to prevent Clostridium botulinum toxin formation and scombrotoxin (histamine) formation, according to the warning letter.

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Briefly: Pesticide tests — Warm walnuts — Holy Land chicken

Food Safety News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 01:08

Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of iwaspoisoned.com.

Scientists target pathogens with research
The invention of a new small plastic pouch that releases chlorine dioxide gas to eliminate E. coli and other pathogens from the surfaces of fruits and vegetables is among the new nutrition and health findings in the latest issue of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service food and nutrition research briefs.

Among other findings, the current issue reports on:

  • A new vaccine developed by ARS scientists that can protect food animals such as pigs and turkeys against both human- and animal disease-causing Salmonella. In experiments, the vaccine protected pigs against two types of Salmonella-Typhimurium and Choleraesuis. It also protected turkeys against Typhimurium and the multidrug-resistant Salmonella type, Heidelberg.
  • ARS scientists development of a new infrared technology that can improve commercial food processing, particularly drying of walnuts. Drying walnuts by the current hot-air method is expensive and energy intensive. This infrared method dries walnuts with 25 percent less energy and reduces drying time by 35 percent. It also may be practical for other types of nuts, such as pistachios.
  • A heat-tolerant broccoli that could be on the horizon since ARS scientists have identified genetic markers associated with heat resistance and characterized the genetic sources of broccoli’s ability to tolerate heat stress. Encountering high temperatures is the main factor limiting where and when broccoli is grown. One cup of broccoli provides more than 100 percent of our daily requirement for vitamins C and K and is a good source of fiber, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

FSIS expands testing for pesticides
Beginning Feb. 26, the Food Safety and Exception Service (FSIS) will expand its testing for pesticides on foods under the jurisdiction of its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

When the updates to the FSIS Chemistry Laboratory Guidebook take effect, the agency will be able to detect 108 different pesticides in the muscle tissue of beef, pork, poultry, sheep, goat, horse, catfish, and liquid and powdered egg products.

The Chemistry Laboratory Guidebook (CLG) contains test methods used by FSIS laboratories to support the USDA’s inspection program, which is designed to ensure the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products.

“The CLG contains methods for the analysis of food composition, food additives, nutrients, veterinary drug and pesticide residues,” according to a news release from FSIS. “Methods are designed to provide analysts with written documentation to facilitate training, performance, quality assessment, and interpretation of data.”

Complete details on the method are available by clicking here.

Salmonella chicken in the Holy Land
Attorneys representing consumer groups are seeking approval from Israeli courts for a huge class-action lawsuit against some of the country’s largest supermarket chains for selling tainted chicken.

The lawsuit cites statistics of recent veterinary studies that established high levels of Salmonella. At the Shufersal supermarkets checked, 55 percent of the chickens carried the pathogen, as did 55 percent of the Yeinot Bitan chickens. At Rami Levy, 27 percent of the chickens were contaminated with Salmonella.

According to the lawsuit, the grocery chains are selling contaminated chickens without providing warnings that they may be infected – and as such should be held responsible for cases in which people who ate their chickens got sick.

Salmonella can be killed if the chicken is cooked to at least 160 degrees F. Nevertheless, there is a danger that some people will not cook the chicken properly, according to Shai Shulman, on whose behalf the lawsuit is being filed.

“Salmonella can harm and hurt my children, whose internal defenses may not be able to beat back the germs,” he told Hadashot News. “When I realized this I felt a great deal of pressure. (In addition) the infected chicken infects other foods, and the entire kitchen environment, when you bring it home,” he said.

 

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Panera recalls cream cheese nationwide after test for Listeria

Food Safety News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 00:09

Panera Bread is recalling all 2- and 8-ounce tubs of its cream cheese sold in its U.S. locations because tests of samples showed contamination by Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen.

The St. Louis-based chain of bakery-cafes posted the “nationwide pre-emptive, voluntary recall” on Sunday on its website. Cream cheese from only one production day tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, but Panera’s recall includes additional products.

“The safety of our guests and associates is paramount, therefore we are recalling all cream cheese products sold in the U.S. with an active shelf life.  We have likewise ceased all manufacturing in the associated cream cheese facility,” according to a statement from Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president and CEO.

The recall includes all varieties of unexpired 2-ounce and 8-ounce cream cheese products with expiration dates on or before April 2:

  • Recalled 2-ounce varieties of Panera cream cheese are — Plain Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Plain Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Chive & Onion Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Honey Walnut Cream Cheese and Reduced-Fat Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese.
  • Recalled 8-ounce varieties of Panera cream cheese are —  Plain Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Plain Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Chive & Onion Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Honey Walnut Cream Cheese, Reduced-Fat Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese.

“Consumers in possession of these products should discard them immediately,” according to the recall notice.

Consumers can contact Panera Bread Customer Service at 855-6-PANERA or visit Panera.custhelp.com for a full refund. For any other questions, please visit www.panerabread.com/recall.

Panera was founded 35 years ago with a single location and now has more than 2,000 bakery-cafes.

Advice to consumers
Listeria monocytogenes is microscopic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Although healthy adults may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled Panera cream cheese and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Also, because it can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms to develop, people who have eaten the recalled cream cheese should monitor themselves for symptoms in the coming weeks.

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‘Free’ trip leaves man in expensive, lifelong, parasitic nightmare

Food Safety News - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 00:00

Ron and Darlene Fields pose during their 2016 trip to Hawaii — before Ron got sick. Photo courtesy of Darlene Fields

Ron and Darlene Fields had been married for 26 years when they decided to take a “free” 12-day trip to Hawaii in fall 2016.

Ron was 62 then, and his construction business in Sarasota, FL, was really taking off. Darlene, who does paperwork for the company, had saved up credit card reward points so they could fly to Los Angeles, spend a night there and then fly to Maui for five nights before moving on to the Big Island.

The only things they expected to pay for were food and an excursion from one side of the Big Island to the other.

The Fieldses, physically fit and devoted for the past dozen years to eating organically, were a couple of days away from heading home when Ron got sick.

“My husband woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t quite describe what was going on with his skin,” Darlene said during a telephone interview from their Florida home. “It was worse in L.A., and more when we got home. … We arrived home on a Saturday and by Thursday, he laid down in the bed — and he couldn’t get up for months.

“He called it burning skin pain. Then he started to have bladder problems and couldn’t urinate.”

Ron and Darlene Fields would end up taking a journey longer than any they’d imagined when they booked their flight to Hawaii.

Along the way, they’d go to emergency rooms, a hospital in Gainesville, FL, and an integrated health center. They’d see neurologists and urologists, general practitioners and meningitis specialists, medical marijuana consultants and acupuncturists and hypnotists.

The cause
The likely culprit behind it all: a tiny slug hiding in one of the many salads the couple ate during their trip.

The slug likely was home to a disgusting little parasite called rat lungworm that is carried in rat feces, which slugs and snails eat. The slugs and snails serve as intermediate hosts for the rat lungworms, which can’t mature or reproduce in humans but can cause a host of physical problems including eosinophilic meningitis and ocular Angiostrongylus if people ingest them.

The semi-slug, officially known as Parmarion martensi, is shown here on a nickel for scale. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Health

Rat lungworm infections typically come from eating raw or undercooked snails — or slugs — that can be in lettuce or other raw produce that hasn’t been washed thoroughly and/or cooked throughly. It has been endemic in Hawaii for at least the past 50 years, according to public health records.

Ron and Darlene Fields didn’t eat any snails, so they’re pretty sure Ron contracted the infection from a salad, which they ate every day of their vacation.

“You know, a Caesar salad or whatever they had in the restaurants,” Ron said in recent days.

Experts say early symptoms of rat lungworm infection can include headaches, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting and that the illness might incubate for a single day or for as long as six weeks before symptoms appear. Infected people are contagious. Recovery time varies in many cases from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Not so in the case of Ron Fields.

“We would go to the emergency room and to our family doctor. We tried acupuncture for the pain,” Darlene said. “During the couple of weeks after we arrived home, I could get him in the car and get him to the emergency room, but when he was home, he just lay in bed, too weak to walk, and any jostle in the car just caused excruciating pain.”

How they discovered the cause
A couple of weeks into the whole thing, Darlene’s mom was flipping through the TV channels one day and caught the words “Big Island” and “rat lungworm” on the Animal Planet network. That sent Darlene on an internet search that led them to the answer.

Rat lungworm disease is reported in about 30 countries in Asia, Africa and Caribbean and Pacific Islands. In Hawaii 80 percent of land snails carry the parasite, which has caused two deaths in the islands since 2007. The state typically experiences one to nine rat lungworm cases a year.

In 2017, however, the Hawaii Department of Health recorded 18 laboratory-confirmed cases, said Anna Koethe of the department’s communications office.

The life cycle of the rat lungworm parasite, as depicted by the Hawaii Department of Health.

Ron Fields’ case is one of an unknown number not included in the public count because his illness, like other people who get sick after returning home, wasn’t reported to Hawaiian public health authorities.

In fact, despite dozens – if not hundreds – of medical tests, doctor visits and exams, Ron never got confirmation that he was infected by rat lungworm disease.

“We were confident of what it was, but they wanted to do another spinal tap to take more fluid, and my wife said no,” he said.

“It was confirmed that it was a parasitic form of meningitis, though.”

During all of their efforts to get a diagnosis and help, they encountered no one in Florida who had heard of the condition.

”They diagnosed all these silly things,” said Darlene. “We thought he was dying, and they said acid reflux, stress. It was just weird. Even after we found out what it was and told doctors, nobody had ever heard of it.

“We diagnosed it ourselves from the internet. I called the Big Island, the hospital, the CDC, I think, trying to get hold of a doctor who had treated it to see what we could do. … I finally called an emergency room in Honolulu and got a doctor who said it was  untreatable but it would go away eventually.

“I said, ‘How long?’ and she said, ‘A long, long time.’ She said, ‘months,’ and I said, ‘He won’t make it months.’ ”

In the end, Ron Fields spent 10 months with a catheter because he couldn’t urinate. He spent nine days he doesn’t remember in the Gainesville hospital. He had IV treatments of vitamin C and he had problems with his bowels. He developed meningitis and had to have a spinal tap.

The time in Gainesville was a nightmare, Darlene said.

“All I did was tell my story every day, all day long,” she said. “Students, neurologists, doctors – and nobody knew anything. They were giving him a lot of antibiotics … trying to eliminate kinds of meninigitis.

“There was nothing to do to help him. He was losing weight. He was getting weaker and sicker instead of better. We went home after nine days and between October 2016 and January or February 2017, he determined he was never going to get better.”

Ron Fields is thankful that he is able to get out of bed, work some days, and spend time with family. Photo courtesy of Darlene Fields

Good days and bad days
Ron is 64 now, and, most days, he goes to work but does less physical labor. He’s lost weight and agility.

“I don’t know if words can really describe (it),” he said. “It’s been challenging. As far as my balance and ability to be able to work every day without disability is about 90 percent.

“It took a while to get there. I still suffer from the neuropathy from the nerve damage that happened to me, and it’s just been a real struggle with that.”

Said Darlene: “Now, every morning he has to go through agony just to get his shirt on. It hurts so badly.”

Ron had to kick morphine, which doctors had him on for three or four months for the pain. He takes a nerve pain medication, but the Fields worry that it’s not good for him long-term. So, he uses medical marijuana, which has been legal in Florida since 2016.

The marijuana, which he uses in vaping form, makes life tolerable.

“We’re so thankful that medical marijuana is legal in Florida,” said Darlene, adding that it helps her husband sleep.

It doesn’t get him high.

“He doesn’t act drunk or high or anything but he’s not able to think as clearly,” she said.

“I thought it was wrong before,” she said of marijuana use. “But a neurologist recommended it and as a Christian he explained how he used to feel the same way, but as soon as we realized how many people it helped … it doesn’t bother us at all.

“Being able to sleep now is a big boost,” Darlene said.

The Fieldses have a type of alternative health insurance through Christian Healthcare Ministries for major medical expenses, but a lot of the treatment and pain relief they tried wasn’t covered.

It’s been challenging, Ron Fields said, but they’ve had help.

“I am a Christian, and if it wasn’t for the love of Jesus Christ and the relationship I have with him to give me the strength, I would never have made it.

“I have good days and I have bad days.”

Ron said he doesn’t rule out a return to Hawaii, but both he and his wife say they’d do things differently – no salads, and probably not even fruit or fruit juice.

“It’s changed our lives,” Darlene said. “We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. His business was really starting to thrive … and when we came back, he just couldn’t work.”

They considered seeking compensation through a lawsuit but since they don’t know where Ron picked up the parasite, there’s really no one to sue.

“We don’t want to sue,” she said. “That’s not the point. What bothered us is that nobody knew about it. We wouldn’t have gone to Hawaii in the first place, and we certainly wouldn’t have eaten like we did.

“We went to Hawaii because I always love to find ways to travel for free … I tell everybody it was the most expensive free trip ever.”

Public health action
The Hawaii Department of Health launched a statewide public education campaign to raise awareness and inform people about best practices they can implement into their daily routines to prevent the spread of rat lungworm disease.

The first initiative, launched late in 2017, included a statewide broadcast media component through a partnership with the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters.

The campaign consists of three radio and three television commercials currently airing on 40 radio stations and seven television stations through the end of June 2018.

The department also has large-scale graphic advertisements displayed in malls and shopping centers across the state. It’s educational materials include rack cards, door hangers and posters that are being distributed during community events and health fairs.

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